Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Beach Life is the Good Life

Hey everyone, thanks for checking back! Today I am writing from the Monkey Republic guest house in
Sihanoukville, Cambodia. It is an awesome place, and one I'd recommend to anyone under 40, haha.

After a laid back evening of dinner and playing cards in Kep, come morning we rode a tuk-tuk to the dock, and boarded a boat for Rabbit Island, a 15 minute ride.

Rabbit island is a fairly popular tourist destination in the area, as in all honesty there isn't much in Kep itself, and the beach had a good number of people swimming and relaxing when we arrived around 10am. The island is pretty rustic, with generator-provided electricity from about 6-11pm, maybe 8 small shacks with bars/restaurants (all about the same), and many little bungalows (also all about the same). We got a room that cost $5 for the three of us (which turned out to be a bit of a mistake, as the bed was too small for Nick and Ellen to share and they didn't have a very good night of sleep), went swimming, laid out in the sun, and then took a little trek around the island which took about 2 hours. Upon returning, most of the tourists had gone home, as it was just a day trip for them, and it became a pretty quiet and peaceful little beach.

We spent most of the rest of the afternoon relaxing in a little cabana on the beach and just enjoying the mellow nature of it all. Dinner was a pretty good beef dish and an excellent squid dish over rice, and the rest of the night was spent drinking Angkor beer, playing cards and laying about in the cabana before finally heading off to bed.

In the morning we got breakfast and took the boat back to the mainland. While the island was nice and peaceful, other than just laying about the beach there was really nothing to do, and we decided to head to another area that had been recommended to us. Back on the mainland we rode in a 'mini-bus' (aka a crowded van) further west, to the town of Sihanoukville.

Upon arriving, we found a room at a place called Monkey Republic, a backpackers bar/restaurant/guest house started by four British guys, and got a pretty nice room for $9 a night. It is a very western place without a doubt, the clientele is entirely white from what I can see, and guests are from around the world, a pretty cool scene actually.

Once we had gotten situated in our room, we wandered off to the closest beach, called Serendipity Beach. I guess the guide didn't make it out as clear as I would have expected, but this is a massive tourist beach. Immediately after I saw the beach, I said “Well, I think we just found every white 20-something in Cambodia!” The whole place is lined with probably 3km of white people in bikinis and board shorts, bars and beach umbrellas. That said, I don't mean it in a bad way, the place is pretty dang cool actually. The water is wonderful, the beach sand is nearly perfect, the sun is just the right intensity and the food and drinks are pretty cheap. I guess it just came as a surprise to me, I haven't been anywhere nearly this tourist-centric yet, but it is a ton of fun.

That said, all of us were fairly tired and not up for going out and hitting the beach parties tonight. Instead, we got our place in Bangkok booked, had dinner and went to bed early. Before I went to bed, I decided to do some wandering on my own and check out the beach scene. It turned out to be amazingly empty, except for one bar, but it could be that everyone was saving themselves for the big island party the next night.

In the morning, we went to a little local food stall and had noodle soup for breakfast ($1-$1.25) and went off to the market. A little side note here, very strangely, most everything is done in American dollars, and the ATMs only give American dollars. The only time I see riel, is when I buy something with dollars (when using dollars, they do it as 4000 per dollar, the 'exact' exchange is 4100, but the difference is only 2.5 cents, so it's not really worth trying to use riel), and get riel in change instead of quarters.

After breakfast we headed to the local market, where I looked for some new sandals (but didn't find any) and Ellen bought a hat for $1.50. This photo is something we saw walking home, a big pile of garbage (common sight), but it was full of prosthetic limbs! (not such a common sight).

After our journey to the market, we headed back to the beach, where we drank fruit shakes and rum, while shooing away the sunglasses/bracelets/fruit/food/massage/manicure/beggars peddlers who wander the beach and often aggressively pushed their products. The one exception was the spring-roll lady, who we loved.

Once we had our fill of relaxing in the sun, we opted for another luxury: the “Dr Fish Massage” where for $3 you get a beer and 20 minutes with your feet in a large vat of fish, who nibble at your feet the entire time. As I expected, my feet were the nastiest (wearing boots all day at work and whatnot) and the fish loved me. The first few minutes are just ticklish beyond belief, and the pool is essentially just non-stop giggling, but after a few minutes you learn to zen out and just let the fish do their thing. I honestly didn't expect much other than a laugh out of it, which we all certainly got, but to be honest my feet felt amazingly clean afterwords! Totally worth it.

While sitting on the beach, just like the people who try and get you to buy things, people are constantly passing out little fliers for the different bars and parties in the area. Naturally we were quite skeptical, and when we were repeatedly told about the 'island party' we had initially decided not to go. That all changed while we were sitting in the fish massage and started talking to other people.

Around 8pm, we boarded a boat for an hour plus ride, along with supposedly 300 other people and headed out. The ride was pretty fun, I met more South Africans, the stars were out, and the bow wake was stirring up some awesome blue bio-luminesent bacteria in the water.

While it was dark and hard to really see much, the beach itself was very nice. On the beach of course was the bonfire, right above that was a volleyball net the fire dancers were throwing their sticks over to each other, the bar, the sound system and dance area, and so on.

People getting their dance on, UV paint and all.

This was an all-night party, so at some point exhaustion and craziness take over! Here of course are the three of us with crunk in full effect. We ended up taking a boat back to the mainland a bit after 4am, arriving a bit after 5:15am, getting some food at a 24 hour shop, and walking the rest of the way home at sunrise.

Today has been a relax and recovery day. Partying until sunrise isn't a normal activity for me, so it was a bit of an adventure, and one which requires much rest afterwords. We slept until around 10:30am, got up, headed to our new favorite food lady, and had breakfast of noodle soup ($1.25) and a fruit shake (75c), and have been sitting at our guest house lounge upstairs ever since. All three of us have used as time to catch up on internet things, such as uploading photos, buying plane tickets, and chatting with friends. Originally we were headed out to the beach, but these couches and wifi are just so nice today, and plus it's cloudy out. Still quite warm, but cloudy. In a while, we will head out to our little food shack for dinner, and probably go to bed early, haha.

As for tomorrow, we are still not decided. We may head west into the jungle, and in a few days head to Ankor Wat, then into Bangkok, Thailand around the 22nd.